This post is about boobs. I think that’s my only shot at humor here.
I’ve had friends live through and die from breast cancer.
When I walked the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer a few years ago it was because yet another friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer and I had to do something. I was doing it for the people I personally knew who had or were battling breast cancer: Amy, Gail, Ingrid, Sue, Marilyn, Lynn J., Lynn G., Pam, Kathy, Connie, Chris, Nancy, Barbara, and Marla. Others told me their stories of Louise, Raina, Lisa, Phyllis, Evelyn, Ruth, Donna K., Donna S., Sheri, Dorothy, and more who also had breast cancer.
Later, my friend Kathleen would “make” the list, too.
Cancer has a huge appetite.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and we all know we are supposed to get yearly mammograms and do monthly self-examinations. We know it…and I want to make sure you do it. Please.
Now for a confession: while I get my yearly mammogram like a good girl, I’m not so good at the self-exam. Yet another thing to make time for in a chaotic, hectic life, so it’s easy to let it fall away and be left undone.
Which is why when I found a lump recently without even trying, my anxiety-addled mind led me right to the worst case scenario. I mean…there it was—as I was shaving my underarms—I wasn’t even looking for it. I felt like it just jumped up and shouted “Here I am!”
Quite the wake-up call.
To my credit, I didn’t waste any time in getting into the doctor. It’s really not a “credit,” though, as all I wanted to do was shorten my span of time to freak out. I was fortunate in that I got into the doctor soon. Yep, she could feel the lump, too. She assured me that it was probably nothing, but I should get a mammogram to be sure.
I got a mammogram. Results: Inconclusive. Please make an appointment with a breast specialist. Not exactly the clear-cut “you’re off the hook” I was hoping for.
More waiting, wondering, and worrying. Awesome.
Thankfully, I was able to see that doctor in a decent time frame, as well. In just a few minutes, she helped me to exhale. She explained that the “inconclusive” was that while there was a lump, nothing showed up on the mammogram, and we needed to rule out the chance that there was something the mammogram didn’t show—as is the case with 10% of breast cancers. (Oh, boy, that would have been great to know with the original results…)
After some poking and prodding and an ultrasound, she was able to smile at me and say, “Darn, nothing here I need to stick a needle into…” (She was a smart-ass, so l liked her right out of the gate.)
During my appointment, the doctor talked to me about self-exams, and how a woman shouldn’t beat herself up if she doesn’t do it like clockwork, but by doing it in general, we get to know our breasts and be more aware of changes within them. Sisters: we need to get to know our girls so we can take good care of them—and thereby us, as well.
If you feel you’re too busy to get to know your girls because you’re a caregiver to others in your life and you just don’t have time, remember that by taking care of yourself, by extension, you are taking care of those you love, too. Do it for them, if not for yourself. (Though “yourself” IS a perfect reason!)
Early diagnosis doesn’t guarantee anything, but it sure as hell helps the situation. And we need all the help we can get when it comes to battling cancer. All the help we can get.
I was lucky that my lump was benign. I am so very grateful for that. I hope I don’t find any more, but if I do, this experience has better prepared me for handling it.
I wanted to share my experience in hopes that you, too, will be moved to commit to getting to know your girls. Please.
You are so totally, absolutely worth it.
PS—I wanted to say that I know how blessed I am to have health insurance. Due to our life circumstances, we are paying a ridiculously huge amount for coverage, but we have it. For those who do not, they are not able to take my course of action and readily see doctors and get tested. This is why we need affordable health care. Everyone should have access to care that may save their lives. Period.
PPS—For more information on breast self-examinations, this link should be helpful.
PPPS—Men can also get breast cancer. So guys, you need to pay attention to your boys, too.